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Posted January 5, 2012
Exquisitely written with every detail in the right place. Ben Reese is a hero you love meeting on the pages of the book, but he doesn't stay there, he's far too real for that. An intellectual scholar with the physical abilities of a commando fighter, Ben is still a very human man with longings and vulnerabilities. Add to that clever plotting by a villain that calls forth all of Ben's skills and settings so well-developed you can live in them.
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Posted February 11, 2000
Like any mystery writer, I¿ve been asked a lot of questions about where I get my ideas and how I plan a book. I could say dreams, eavesdropping, and perceptions I really care about - and that would be true. But it may be more helpful to say character, setting, and plot. Which is true in a larger context. For instance. Publish And Perish grew out of character. Out of Ben Reese. Out of a conversation I had in Blind River, Canada in 1973 with a university archivist I¿d known for years. My husband and I were standing on a dock on the edge of a large dark lake, watching the sun set and listening to the loons, talking with a professor I¿d known but never studied under, an archivist at a university who understood all sorts of arcane stuff I¿d never heard of. I knew his wife better. An English professor who¿d made pointed remarks years earlier, when she¿d heard about me in someone else¿s class, telling me cryptically that I wasn¿t working hard enough when I knew better - which was so undeniably true my only explanation was ¿youthful rebelliousness.' Anyway, this archivist was the right age to have been in World War II, and I asked if he¿d fought in the war. ¿Yes, in Europe.¿ ¿What did you do?¿ ¿Materials evaluation.¿ ¿Materials evaluation?...¿ I didn¿t let it drop, being the way I am, and eventually he told me he¿d been a behind-the-lines scout, a member of ¿The Nighttime Special,¿ who got sent out night after night, in groups of two or four, to take German command posts, photograph their documents, develop the photographs back at Intelligence and help analyze what they said about German troops and materials, and the strategic implications of both. Right at that moment - talking with that archivist as the sun set - I said, ¿Boy, you¿d make a great character in a mystery novel. A mild-mannered archivist who¿s also an ex-World War II scout.¿ He looked dubious. And I didn¿t start the book for years. I was pregnant with our first child, and had another two years later, and then worked at raising them while I wrote biography articles and avant garde novels (novels that got rejected by some very kind and well known editors - which was very little compensation at the time). But I¿d never forgotten my archivist friend. And when I finally decided to write a novel that might have a market in the real world, I named my archivist Ben Reese and began to give him a life - a past, and a family, and a childhood. I placed the book in 1960 next, when he was in his late thirties, because it worked well with Ben¿s life, and gave me a chance to contrast (by implication if nothing else) what American life was like then with what had become of it by the nineties. I interviewed my professor friend several times about being an archivist, and what he did in the war, even though he almost never talks about the war (hoping, like many people who faced what he faced, to put it behind him and move on). Then I said to myself, ¿Okay, what do I do with this? What kind of story would make sense with this fictional Ben Reese I¿ve got, whose life (and looks) are in my three ring binder? It would take place in a university. Obviously. At least the first book. But what kind of murder would make sense? What kind of pressures and conflicts would actually occur there in real life?¿ Publish And Perish is the two hundred page answer to that question - the answer that presented itself, at least, when I sat down and got to work.
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Posted April 5, 2013
Posted April 11, 2013
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